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Chester v Afshar

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Chester v Afshar is an English tort law case regarding medical negligence and the importance of informing patients of potential risks that are associated with any medical procedure. As a patient, trust is placed upon the doctor or physician to properly educate and make the patient aware any potential risks or benefits of a procedure. Failure to do so can be deemed as negligent.

Miss Chester, a woman in the UK, had suffered from back pain for several years, and was hoping to find relief from her ailment. Miss Chester was referred to Dr. Afshar, a neurologist, who recommended surgery to ease her back pain.

Chester v Afshar: A Case of Medical Negligence?

When Miss Chester was evaluated by Dr. Afshar, he informed her that the solution to her back pain would be surgery. However, he failed to inform her that there was a 1% chance of risk of further injury if the surgery was performed. After the procedure, Miss Chester developed cauda equina syndrome, which can potentially lead to paralysis. If Miss Chester had been informed of this risk of injury, she could have asked for a second opinion or alternative treatments. Miss Chester stated that she may not have agreed to the surgery had she been informed of the risks.

This case involved medical negligence due to the following:

  • Failure to educate the patient on the risks of the procedure
  • Failure to discuss alternate, less invasive procedures 


 In the original judgement, Dr. Afshar was determined to have acted negligently through Miss Chester’s procedure. The defendant, Dr. Afshar appealed the ruling and stated there was no base for the case because the patient would have consented to the operation eventually, despite the risks.

There were several dissents throughout the Chester v Afshar case. Despite Dr. Afshar’s appeal, it was ruled by a 3-2 vote in the Appeal Court that the defendant had failed in his professional responsibility. It was reprised that the defendant should have warned Miss Chester of the risk of potential damage and consequences. The verdict also suggested that the claimant had a more accurate account of the pre-surgery discussions with the defendant. 

What We Learned from Chester v Afshar  

Although it is believed that had Miss Chester been informed of the risks, it would not have changed her decision to proceed with the surgery, Dr. Afshar still failed to debrief her on the possible consequences of the procedure. By his actions, he acted negligently and did not uphold the proper medical standard of care expected by a doctor or physician

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